Monday, November 24, 2014

This is Me, Being Professional

Last week did & did not live up to all I had imagined it could be.  It had its ups, & it had its downs.  It's essential that you know, right from the beginning, that a work-related incident occurred on Thursday of last week, & I would love nothing more than to delve deeply into a play-by-play of it for you . . . She said this, to which I replied . . . but, I cannot.  I cannot because I am a professional, & professional people don't take to their personal blog & air all of their dirty work laundry, because that would be unprofessional.  So, this is me, being professional, which is not, by the way, nearly as satisfying as narrating a play-by-play for you, ranting a bit, & soliciting your thoughts on why I am right.

So here I am, being professional.

I feel like such a grown-up.

You can imagine how thrilled I was that this work-related incident occurred on Thursday, a day I awoke with one thing on my mind.  I'll give you a hint: it was not being a professional (it was Peeta, okay, totally Peeta . . . & popcorn).  So, I stewed a little Thursday afternoon, & by the time my posse of babysitters arrived just before seven in the evening, I felt I was in a good state of mind to go enjoy my movie.  If you've read Mockingjay (& you should read it), you know that a Peeta-loving fool like myself does not need to be encumbered by the weight of additional emotional baggage when walking into the theater, because oh my goodness, the movie is intense.  Intense.

Remember that time I wrote a blog about visual images, & how powerful they can be, & how permanent they often are in our minds?  Mockingjay is a dark book, with very few humorous or lighthearted scenes interspersed for levity, & so watching it unfold on the big screen (& the screen was very big, as the book club occupied one of those first two up-up-close rows in the packed theater) was a haunting experience.

Throughout the first two novels, there is a constant undercurrent of momentum.  Even before the reader, & certainly before Katniss, realizes the inevitable, that a revolutionary war with the Capitol looms ahead, there is a sense that something momentous is going to happen, & Katniss will be the catalyst for it.  She is all the more powerful because she doesn't realize her own strength; as Peeta says, "She has no idea, the effect she can have."  *Excuse me while I sniffle & blow my nose.*

What is tricky about Mockingjay is that the momentum that's been building for two novels, during two harrowing trips to the arena for Katniss & Peeta, comes to a bit of a halt.  Suzanne Collins can afford the slowdown, as she's got her readers on the hook after the cruel, tortuous cliffhanger that is Catching Fire, but I was curious as to how the dramatic change in pace would play on the big screen.  Katniss, the girl on fire who survived two rounds in the arena & has defied the Capitol at every turn, is suddenly a mute specter, a ghost haunting the halls of the underground District 13, where she was evacuated at the end of Catching Fire.  She initially has no interest in the rebellion she incited, largely because Peeta is being held captive in the Capitol, & via short video clips she sees of him, it is apparent his condition is deteriorating.

Obviously you're aware this post contains major spoilers, so this is your only *spoiler* warning before I forge right ahead.  After witnessing some of the Capitol's atrocities, Katniss gets a little of her spark back, & Peeta is eventually rescued from the Capitol.  Sounds great, right?  Let's go, rebels!  Not so fast.  When the long-awaited reunion with Peeta finally happens, it becomes apparent the Capitol has been busy rewiring Peeta's mind, & he now believes Katniss is his enemy & he tries to take her life.  The Capitol has turned Peeta into an assassin whose one target is the woman he's spent years pining after.  I know, it sounds like soap opera stuff, but I've watched soap operas & let me tell you, this is so much better.  For one, you will never see the likes of Jennifer Lawrence on a soap opera.  The woman is a phenomenal actress.

Mockingjay is a complex novel in which many, many things happen, one of which is a rebellion to overthrow the tyrannical Capitol, however, the novel also concludes one of the most heartbreaking love stories I've read.  Katniss has spent two novels unsure of her feelings, rarely having a moment to give thought to what or who she wants, beyond simply surviving.  Finally, burrowed below the earth in District 13, separated from Peeta, she begins to realize who she loves, & realize the extent to which she has taken his affection for granted, the affection he has always so freely given, & then he is finally returned to her, only, he's not.  Ms. Collins gutted me the first time I read it, & she guts me still.

To say it is a crushing blow to me Katniss is quite the understatement.  Sadly, & a bit ironically, after all her efforts to keep herself alive, through years of near starvation & two stints in the Hunger Games, it is when she realizes Peeta is likely lost to her forever that Katniss demands to be sent into battle, no longer seeking her own self-preservation.  It's a move that would infuriate the baker once known as Peeta, the boy who gave Katniss bread when they were children & her family was starving & who tried, in a hundred other ways, to keep her alive, only to have the Capitol turn him against her.  It's tough stuff, y'all, but the story doesn't end there.  In my opinion, the best moments in Mockingjay will unfold on the big screen this time next year as Katniss & Peeta again negotiate their relationship amidst the backdrop of the ominous Capitol.  A preview - -

Slowly, as I would with a wounded animal, my hand stretches out and brushes a wave of hair from his forehead.  He freezes at my touch, but doesn't recoil.  It's the first time I have voluntarily touched him since the last arena.  
 "You're still trying to protect me.  Real or not real," he whispers.
"Real," I answer.  It seems to require more explanation.
"Because that's what you and I do.  Protect each other."

I've mentioned the lovely & talented Jennifer Lawrence, but the entire cast is fantastic.  Off the top of my head, I have no complaints about the movie.  I know, right?!  I can't believe it either.  There are a few conversations in the novel that I needed to see in the film to keep my anger at bay, conversations I was hoping to hear word for word, & guess what?  They're there, almost word for word.  One such conversation occurs between Katniss & Finnick Odair, a tribute who escapes the arena with Katniss at the end of Catching Fire.  Finnick explains to Katniss what the reader already knows, & what almost everyone but Katniss already knows, that she loves Peeta & that this is why the Capitol took him, to hurt her.  I tell you, Francis Lawrence is a fangirl.  There is no other explanation for his ability to make these films in almost the same way I would, you know if I knew the first thing about directing a big Hollywood production.

You see what I did there?  I gave you a play-by-play of the film, rather than a play-by-play of the work-related incident, because I am a professional.  I lose my emotions in fiction, & then am better able to cope when confronted with real world issues that seem small after watching Jennifer Lawrence wade through the ashes of her former home, stepping on a skull here & there for good measure.

So, fangirl week has ended, & I suppose I am glad.  It's always a rush, but I am getting older, & it wears on me.  Between the work-related incident about which I steadfastly refuse to divulge details & the ache I left the theater with after seeing the first half of Mockingjay come to life, I am ready to move on with a new week.

I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving.  In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I pledge not to mention The Hunger Games again for, oh I don't know, at least a few weeks.  So, be thankful for the reprieve.  I am of course rereading Mockingjay through to the end now.  I reread the first half, stopping about where I felt they'd break the first film, but after walking out of the theater Thursday night, leaving Peeta trapped inside himself, thrashing around while a helpless Katniss looks on, well, I cannot wait a year for closure & I have to read the second half of the novel, which includes many details about the war with the Capitol, but also poignant details of Peeta & Katniss finding their way back to each other.  I should note that when I said I wouldn't mention The Hunger Games again for awhile, I should've added, *after this post is concluded.*  I don't want you to feel I've misled you, because I am, after all, a professional.

I plan to return with non-professional pictures of Thanksgiving merriment featuring my children, whom I know some of you visit this blog with high hopes of seeing, only to all too often read & read about Peeta & Katniss & other nonsense & get to the end & realize I have again yakked & yakked about fictional people while failing to picture, or even mention, my children.

A few non-professional shots to tide you over until the holiday deluge begins - -

Last Saturday I left Henry with Trey & took Reagan to the grocery store with me.  Some days we brush our hair, & some days, not so much.

These are from a trip to the park a week or so ago on one of those days when the high was in the mid-forties:

It was cold, but how can you not take him to the park when there's a reason to put him in this get-up:

In all honesty, despite my dour spirits over Thursday's work-related incident & the ache in my heart after seeing Mockingjay, the holiday merriment has begun (I've been listening to Michael Buble's Christmas album for weeks now, maybe since around the end of October . . . I tried desperately to put it off, but who was I kidding).  

While I was watching Peeta lose his mind Thursday evening, Jessica & Maisie were en route from Dallas.  We all made a trip to the park Saturday, & here's how that went:

We were aiming for a Von Trapp feel with these:

And finally, one of my children looked at me:

Jessica took these of me & the child I can still force to sit on a bench with me.  

So, there you are.  I still have kids with whom I spend a fair amount of time while juggling a demanding career as a professional adjunct instructor, & an even more demanding reading list & the fangirling & book club duties that accompany said reading.  Yesterday, before two in the afternoon, I dressed everyone for church, herded us & our many necessary bags off to church, ate lunch, took both kids to the grocery store, filled my car with gasoline, unloaded & put away the groceries, got Henry down for a nap, & was wading through our Christmas decorations with Reagan as the clock struck two.  I once turned in a paper in graduate school that was around forty pages long; the Reference page accompanying the paper included around thirty entries.  At two o'clock yesterday afternoon, I believe I felt more of a sense of personal accomplishment than I did when I turned in that paper.  In all things, I am a professional; when it really counts, I am a BOSS.

Before bidding you adieu, I'd like to say Happy Birthday to my late cousin, Elizabeth, who would've turned thirty-seven today.  She was a beauty.


My prayer is that you, dear reader, have a wonderful week free of all stress, work & otherwise, surrounded by family & friends you love, with whom you pray & laugh & share a meal, realizing that we do not know what tomorrow holds.  


Monday, November 17, 2014

Happy Fangirl Week

This past Saturday night, on a frozen field in Fayettville, for the first time in forever, the Hogs won an SEC game.  I hate that it was a shut-out of the same LSU team that a mere eight days prior took the Crimson Tide to overtime, I hate that a lot, but, as with the previous week's LSU loss, it rolled off my back relatively quickly.  If the old song is correct, & the first cut is the deepest, well, by the time you lose number four, you're immune to the pain.

Come a little closer . . . I'm going to tell you a secret.  If I could change the outcome of one football game that was played this past Saturday, I don't know that it would be the shut-out of the Tigers.  Were it within my power, I'd lean heavily toward granting my friends with cowbells the defeat of the Tide they so desperately wanted.  I was hoping Mississippi State would remain undefeated, & I was hoping Miami would beat overrated Florida State & their sketchy quarterback, & though I strongly felt they would lose, obviously I was hopeful LSU would surprise me  & defeat the Hogs.  At least Notre Dame lost again.  That's always something.  Something fabulous.

If you haven't already guessed, I will tell you that there is simply too much merriment ahead in the coming week for me to be too bothered by LSU's complete inability to generate even a hint of offense.  You go ahead & doggedly leave Jennings in the game, Les, but you're not going to ruin my mood this week, for it is the week before Thanksgiving, which means fictional men teenagers with a myriad of dramatic problems, a heaping helping of popcorn, & much anticipated time with friends await me.  I certainly hope my friends await me, as I am currently in possession of about a hundred dollars worth of movie tickets.

Five years ago this week, I joined a few friends for dinner & a movie.  I was newly married, had no children, & so it was quite a simple affair to arrange.  It went a little something like this:  Bye, Trey.  See you later.  We were all celebrating a friend's twenty-ninth birthday in perhaps the best way possible, by stuffing ourselves with an expensive dinner & then going to see New Moon, the film adaptation of the second book in the Twilight series.  A few weeks prior, the birthday girl had convinced me to read Twilight & New Moon (which I had foolishly, flippantly dismissed as child's stuff) so I'd be up to speed when we all went to the movie.  As you well know, I did read the books, &, well, I did not hate them.

My friend has the best birthday ever, as it falls the week before Thanksgiving, or as it's known in Hollywood, fangirl movie gold.  This is our week, ladies.  It's time to think about ourselves before the holidays descend in full force & it's not cool to focus only on yourself, what you want to read, what movie you want to see, how much the boots you want to buy cost, the coffee you want to sit & drink in peace in the morning while it's still hot.  Say it with me: ME, ME, ME!  

My friend will celebrate her thirty-fourth birthday this Thursday, & again, we'll be spending the evening of her big day together sitting in the theater, emotionally distraught over teenagers, which was a little creepy when we were twenty-nine, but is definitely getting weird as we hit our mid-thirties.  At least the actors who play these teens aren't themselves teenagers.  That takes a little off the weirdness edge.  Right?  Right.  Thankfully, there are a few youthful book club members in their twenties, & so I am going to sit by them so as to hopefully blend & draw fewer stares if I whimper at the sight of Peeta being held in the Capitol, or happen to holler something like, You love him, Katniss.  They took him to hurt you, can't you see!

A few weeks ago, I told you I'm working on a page that links to all the blogs I've written about books.  I continue to tinker with the page as time permits, & I recently unearthed one that I originally wrote in 2012 & simply must share with you now; it has fangirl week written all over it.  It's quite possible you've never read this before, as my mom comprised my main blog audience back in 2012.  Love you, Mom!  Also, as you'll see momentarily, I reference Maslow's hierarchy of needs, & I admit I love his hierarchy & always seek opportunities to share it with others.  If that doesn't earn me cool points, then I don't know what will.  

If you haven't read The Hunger Games series, you should.  I don't care how old you are, whether you're male or female, or how much you "aren't a reader."  I reject your excuses; I am rolling my eyes at you as I type.  I make no royalties from shamelessly plugging this series, I just honestly think it will improve your life, expand your mind, & all those other cliches that excellent fiction can accomplish.

In The Fault in Our Stars, John Green's protagonist, Hazel, says of her favorite book, "Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book."  So, yeah.  I remember reading that line for the first time & feeling such solidarity with Hazel in that moment.  There are many books I love, but I push books judiciously, considerately thinking of what those on whom I am forcing novels would genuinely enjoy.  For example, I handed my dad my copies of all three books in The Hunger Games series when I finished them; I did not hand him my copies of the books in the Twilight series, or The Bronze Horseman series.  He is usually a considerate book pusher too, understanding that I do not want to read the tall stack of books on the Ark of the Covenant that usually tops his nightstand.

So, read the books.  Yes, you should see the films, as they're well done, HOWEVER, the books are better.  Cliche, I know, but it's so true.  You will never understand my Peeta love if you don't read the books.  Nor will you know who Madge Undersee is.  Nor will you understand why this week's coffee mug is fantastic:

As promised, my initial thoughts on The Hunger Games, circa 2012 . . . which I am discovering via reading old blogs was a time when my thoughts were a little less scattered than they are now, two years, another child, & a diabetes diagnosis later:

Climbing the Rungs

At the end of the 1998 film The Truman Show, when Truman Burbank reaches the edge of the dome that has housed him his entire life & served as the set of the reality TV show in which he was unknowingly the star, he has a brief conversation with Christof, the creator of the show.  Christof, who has been with the show since its inception & manipulated the world in which Truman has lived his entire life, tells Truman that he knows him better than he knows himself, to which Truman responds, "You never had a camera in my head."

Saturday afternoon, I joined a group of good friends to see The Hunger Games, the film adaptation of the first book in a series by Suzanne Collins.  Both Catching Fire & Mockingjay, the sequels, are slated to be filmed as well, the latter broken into two films, which, if you've read it, you know is absolutely essential.  The movie was well done, so I don't want to be too critical, but I desperately missed the voice of the novel's narrator, Katniss, & I believe the film suffered somewhat from the lack of access to her thoughts & I was reminded of Truman's aforementioned line to Christof. 

The strength of the film is the visual contrast between the affluent Capitol, the ruling city of Panem, the fictitious nation that rose from the ashes of North America in Collins's novels, & the outlying Districts that are mired in poverty & exist solely to supply the Capitol with material goods, as well as entertainment in the form of the yearly Hunger Games.  As punishment for revolting against the Capitol some seventy-four years before the opening of the first novel, every year the Capitol puts on a show that is required viewing for all of Panem.  Twenty-four young men & women between the ages of twelve & eighteen, two from each District, are selected at random to be the stars of the show.  These young people are taken to the Capitol, primped & styled, put on parade, interviewed, & then locked in an arena constructed & manipulated by Gamemakers.  The goal is to be the sole survivor, literally.  Kill or be killed.  It sounds dire, obviously, & it is, but that's why there are two sequels to The Hunger Games

Collins runs the gamut of human experiences in her series.  As I read, I often had this image in the back of my mind:

This triangle is typically the visual that accompanies an explanation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  If you've ever taken a basic psychology class, you encountered Maslow.  Even before she enters the arena, Katniss's life is dominated by providing not only for her own physiological needs, but those of her mother & her younger sister.  Her father was killed in a mining accident, after which her mother shut down emotionally, leaving Katniss to fend for the three of them in one of the poorest Districts in Panem.  She learns to hunt & survive off the land, skills which serve her well when, at sixteen, she enters the arena as one of the stars of the Capitol's Hunger Games.  Katniss has been playing hunger games her entire life, &, much to the Capitol's chagrin, she shines in the arena they constructed to be her tomb. 

In contrast to Katniss is Peeta Mellark, the male tribute from District Twelve who accompanies Katniss into the arena.  Peeta's father is a baker, & while his family is by no means wealthy, Peeta's childhood isn't dominated by a fear of starvation like Katniss's is.  Thus, Peeta has time to dabble in other areas of Maslow's hierarchy.  During his interview before the Games, Peeta announces to all of Panem (literally, it's required viewing) that he has a crush on Katniss.  The reader knows that Katniss has never had the luxury of wondering or worrying about who has a crush on her, & she doesn't much care since she announces early in the first novel that she will never marry & have children, an understandable sentiment considering the daily struggle for food in her world, & the yearly Reaping Day, the day on which all twenty-four tributes are selected for participation in the Games.

In addition to developing & maintaining a crush on Katniss, a careful reader (or perhaps one who is slightly obsessed with Peeta's character) picks up on the fact that Peeta is a thinker.  While Katniss enters the arena with essentially the same survival mindset she has when she enters the woods back home to hunt, Peeta tells Katniss that, while he knows he will lose his life, he wants to find a way to show the Capitol he is more than a piece in their Game.  (I'd quote the line directly, but at present my dad has my copy of The Hunger Games.  That's right, I've become a book pusher, just like him).  One of the ways Peeta attempts to do this is by refusing to play the game by the Capitol's rules, looking out for Katniss's safety before his own. *sigh*  

As I read, I was engrossed in the world Collins creates.  When Katniss & Peeta binge on the fine food they're served in the Capitol prior to the Games, I was salivating.  While Katniss searches for water in the arena, nearing dehydration, I was thirsty.  When Katniss treats a deep leg wound Peeta receives in the arena, I was cringing.  When Peeta & Katniss search desperately for viable ways to thumb their nose at the Capitol & to change the reality of life for the citizens in Panem, I was constantly reminded of the harshness of war that always accompanies such change. 

There is, of course, a love story woven throughout the novels.  I was at times incredibly frustrated with its pace, and then I'd again recall Maslow's trusty triangle.  Not only is Katniss young, she is constantly in a fight for her life, both in and out of the arena, so she understandably doesn't usually think clearly  - or at all - about love.  To contemplate anything above those first two rungs of the triangle - physiological needs, & safety needs -  is a luxury she almost never allows herself, & so the moments when she does are quite poignant (& noticeably missing from the film, in my opinion).  

I don't want to give away the end of the series, but let me just say that while Collins delves into sobering issues, she tinges the despair that weighs heavily on her characters (& her readers!) with a story of sacrificial love that kept me up reading several nights.  I hope this part of her story is more prominent in the subsequent films.  I know the movie is never as good as the book, but I hope to not leave Catching Fire reciting all of Peeta's lines that weren't included in the film for the lucky moviegoers around me.  If you run into me in the next few weeks, I'll probably recite them for you, too. 

Most of us, certainly anyone reading this blog, live constantly in the top three tiers of Maslow's hierarchy - social needs, esteem needs, & self-actualization.  For example, because I've never a day in my life had to worry about where my next meal will come from, & I am fortunate enough to live in a country where I rarely worry about my personal safety, or the safety of my child, I am free to sit & muse about Collins's series, take a Saturday afternoon to view the film, & then eat dinner with friends so we could all bemoan the absence of our favorite Peeta lines & speculate about how exactly the second film might ramp up the romance.

When Reagan was first born, I thought about Maslow's triangle every now & then.  I realized Maslow was right, because when you aren't getting any sleep, little else matters.  Also, babies are a fine example of his hierarchy of needs.  They primarily are concerned with the first two tiers for the better part of their first year, & when a need isn't being met, they promptly let you know.  It's interesting to note how a person's definition of safety changes as they age.  I know my arms are sufficient for now, but I pray when she's older, our world is a place where Reagan doesn't have to worry about her personal safety. 

I hope Reagan never has to worry about how she will meet her physiological needs.  I pray she always feels safe, which is something most of us take for granted because it's just the norm.  It's only once these basic needs are met that people are able to move up the tier & delve into the things that make life worth living: relationships, love, music, books, complaining about lines omitted from movies, &, of course, coffee.  Interestingly, coffee is mentioned only a few times in Collins's novels.  It's considered a luxury in Panem that, like all luxuries, only Capitol citizens have regular access to . . . so, as much as I love Peeta, he probably wouldn't be enough for me, regardless of his flawlessly delivered romantic lines.  Coffee first, romance second.  That's how they shake out on my hierarchy of needs.

I hope you're anticipating the unfolding of your week as much as I am mine.  Seize your week, ladies.  Lay down the law for the men, kiss the babies goodbye, laugh & cry with friends, & relish the buttery popcorn that coats your chocolate-stained fingers.

I'll see you on the other side of fangirl week.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Ode to the Indefatigable Ladies

The world was hers for the reading.

- Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn 

I don't think it's a secret that I enjoy my book club.  If this is your first visit to my blog, or you've never, ever had a conversation with me, FYI: I enjoy my book club.  Okay, now you're up to speed.  We met last Tuesday night to discuss The Selection series by Kiera Cass.  It's a fun young adult series we chose to read on the heels of this year's fourth (fifth?) gritty war novel, When the Elephants Dance, which I drone on about at length here, if you missed it.  That's the thing about gritty war novels.  They plunge you into deep, aching thought.  The Selection series inspires decidedly fewer deep thoughts, which is exactly what we wanted after the horrors of WWII.

We also discussed next month's book club meeting, which will be a screening of Mockingjay, Part I.

I had a few glorious minutes alone in the car driving home, & I was in a reflective mood, which I've discovered is an ancillary effect of a book club meeting.  My invitation to the book club came in March of 2012.  I'd just read The Hunger Games & I suppose I'd been making some noise about it on Facebook.  My fangirling caught the attention of a book club member, & I joined them to see the film & then we went to Chili's to bloat ourselves with chips & salsa & bemoan the film's shortcomings.

One of my most favorite things ever is to discuss books with others who agree with me.  I'd almost forgotten this until I met with my favorite ladies for the first time.  It had been many years since I'd sat in a classroom, bickering with my peers over our assigned reading.  I didn't realize how much I missed it until I found myself seated at Chili's, bursting at the seams to discuss The Hunger Games; imagine my elation upon discovering I was surrounded by ladies eager to do the same.  It's the closest I'll ever come to being high.

As we make plans to go see the first installment of the final book in Suzanne Collins's series, I've been thinking about my tenure in book club.  I've only missed two meetings, one because I was hospitalized with a wretched case of mastitis, & one because Reagan was in PICU, having hours earlier been diagnosed with diabetes.  During my hospitalization, I missed the discussion of Dogwood by Chris Fabry; during Reagan's hospitalization, I missed the discussion of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  I read & loved every word of both of those novels, & there's a niggling, unfulfilled part of me that wants to sit around discussing them for hours while Trey watches the kids.  I've entertained the idea of seeking out another book club & possibly dropping in on their discussion should they read either of these novels.  Sort of like a book club exchange program.  I'd be willing to buy everyone coffee.    

I've learned a lot from my time with the book club ladies.  I am continually reminded of the fact that when I shut my mouth, I learn things.  When I'm not talking, I'm in a much better position to listen; it's  a lesson I learned the hard way when I was a wee school girl.  When we get together, I often think of a Will Rogers quote I once read, "Never miss a good chance to shut up."  There are always numerous opportunities for me to shut up when we all get together, & I'm always rewarded when I do.  These ladies are sharp.  They pull things from books that make me, the English major who contends there are layers of meaning in Twilight, slouch in my chair as I grab for another cookie.

I showed up Tuesday night ready to relax & eat taco salad.  Those were really my only goals as The Selection series, while I enjoyed reading it, isn't a series I felt I just had to discuss.  Admittedly, I read most of it the week Trey was in Denver, so I was extra tired (& entering an Ebola panic frenzy from which I've yet to fully emerge), so it is quite possible I missed many nuances in the series.  Tuesday night, I sat, shoveling in taco salad & then homemade cookies & brownies, & was schooled (by one of the youngest members of our group) on her plans to parallel the series with the book of Ester for the eighth grade girls to whom she teaches Bible.  I was floored.  I wanted to put down all the food in my hands & immediately read Ester.  There's a sentence you don't read every day.

As a group, we mesh nicely.  Obviously, we all like to read - - no, no, we need to read.

We need to read, & then abandon our families in order to come together & exercise all the demons so much of what we read brings to the surface.  We share an insatiable appetite for young adult literature, specifically young adult series featuring fickle teens who are charged with ushering in societal change while simultaneously deciding whose babies they ultimately want to bear.  With an average age of around thirty, we are in the perfect position to read & then critique the decisions of teen protagonists, over coffee, of course.          

The women I meet with once a month are indefatigable readers (isn't that the best word, indefatigable?). They're indefatigable wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, teachers, & students.  Indefatigable Christians.  They continually impress me in every aspect of their lives.  They have & continue to walk paths I cannot fathom, burying children, burying parents, carrying & birthing & mothering not three, not four, but five (5!) children, & homeschooling their children (I get hives just thinking about that), always keeping their eyes on Christ, & pointing all those they encounter in the same direction.  They are the bedrock of what is quickly becoming a rare commodity in America, a Christian home.  You learn a good deal about people by discussing literature with them, & in everything these ladies say & do, I am reminded of Joshua 24:15, "Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."  I always walk away from a book club meeting feeling intellectually stimulated & spiritually encouraged.

These ladies are some of the finest people I know, & I am certain the Lord put them in my life at the perfect time.  Reagan was diagnosed with diabetes on a Thursday.  As I mentioned, I was supposed to meet with my favorite ladies that night to discuss The Book Thief.  Not having come to grips with her diagnosis myself, I didn't want to post anything public on Facebook, but I did post a note on our book club page letting them know I'd be absent, & why.  That evening, after Reagan had been moved to a room in PICU & was finally receiving the blessed insulin she needs to remain healthy, I sat, watching it drip into her veins, watching her slowly come back to life, & read countless words of encouragement from friends who'd responded to my post on the book club's page.  It was exactly what I needed in that moment.  I was strengthened by their words, & by the knowledge that, across town, they were all gathered, thinking about me & my sweet girl.

As you might imagine, it is much easier for me to express myself with a word processor than in person, for I tend to blubber, so to each of you I say, I love you & I am so thankful for your presence in my life.  I love discussing literature & life with you, & I admire the lives you lead.  Thank you for humoring my obsessions, for listening to me gush & rant, for surprising me with a baby shower - - really, really surprising me as I was raring to discuss Gatsby - - , for sitting (& nursing your newborn in the theater) & watching The Great Gatsby with me when I was hugely pregnant, for agreeing to read Hemingway, even if it was only so I would shut up.  Thank you for sharing your favorite books with me; several of them have been added to my favorites list.  Thank you for sharing your time with me; I know how precious it is.  Thank you for welcoming me into our little reading sorority.  It has become my haven.  

I have few pictures of us together, otherwise I'd never post this of me while enormously pregnant with Henry.  On the upside, I weigh, oh, maybe fifty or sixty pounds less now.

In closing (which you should know means there's at least three more paragraphs), I regret to report that the return of my hour hasn't been as glorious as I'd hoped.  Neither my children, nor my aging body, nor Reagan's insulin needs observe Daylight Savings Time.  I was up earlier Sunday morning, but so were both the kids.  They usually sleep until around nine, only occasionally waking closer to eight, so I was hoping they'd sleep until eight o'clock (formerly known as nine o'clock), but no.  They were both up at seven.  I felt kind of blah all day Sunday.  I guess I'm too old to stay up until one in the morning because It's really only midnight!  No, no it's not; it is one in the morning.

A complication I hadn't given much thought to has arisen, & that is changing the time on Reagan's insulin pump, & also redoing her basal dosages.  Her body simply wants insulin, more at some times, less at others, & it doesn't much care that we've set the clocks back an hour.  I'm grappling with aligning her insulin needs with the settings on the pump, constantly doing calculations like this in my head, "Okay, if she needed .325 units of basal an hour beginning at nine in the morning before, now that's eight in the morning . . . "  It's as relaxing as it sounds . . . & now we've circled back around & you see why I read SO MUCH fiction & only miss book club when someone's been hospitalized.

I'll return with a few weeks worth of pictures, a full report on surviving my first Halloween as the mother of a diabetic, & other general fall glee.  I'm hopeful there will be much to celebrate in the coming week, including the Republican takeover of the Senate, a nationwide rejection of the Democratic Party & their failing policies, & **fingers crossed** LSU's defeat of Alabama.  I never, never, ever, ever thought I'd utter that phrase this year, but hey, anything is possible on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium if LSU's defense shows up & our QB inflicts minimal damage & Alabama has a bad night.  Fellow Louisianians, we may be on the precipice of an epic week, presented with the opportunity to slay two noxious foes, Mary & the Tide, in the same week.  While very few of us can do more than hope & yell & wear our purple & gold regarding a victory for the Tigers, we can all do our part to shame Mary at the polls as she so mercilessly attempted to shame us last week.  If you didn't participate in early voting, geaux vote tomorrow, assuming of course you plan to vote for Bill Cassidy.   

Two years ago, I learned an important life lesson that I hope to never forget, & that is that it is unwise to allow oneself to plunge too deeply into depression over the results of an election.  Whatever happens, whatever comes my way, I will continue to smile & rejoice, for in the last week, I've had cause to use the seat warmer in my car, decked myself out in a scarf & boots, & discovered that Yankee Candle's newest scent is . . . brace yourselves . . . Salted Caramel.  Additionally, both Catching Fire and Saved by the Bell are now on Netflix.  And yes, I realize my "recently watched" list on Netflix is a strange mix of young adult lore.  So what if I like to relax & unwind with the blonde boys Peeta & Zack Morris?  As if all that isn't enough to permanently plaster a smile on my face, I'm sporting a fabulous new hairdo that has cut my hair drying time in half, & I am rereading Mockingjay in anticipation of joining my favorite ladies for the film in a few short weeks.  Throw in a handsome, hardworking husband & the two cutest kids ever, & it certainly feels like it's almost Thanksgiving.